Marvel Cinematic Universe has come out with 18 movies in the last 10 years, and 2 more are coming out this year, which will help Marvel reach the count of 20 in total. All these movies have been loved by the fans and critics as well. Everything was running very smoothly till the phase 2 movies came out, and fans had no questions about the timeline in particular.
But now that we are more than halfway across Phase 3, and just 4 movies are left before it finally ends, the MCU is achieving X-Men levels of a mess when it comes to the timeline. Phase 1 and 2 were easily explainable in this aspect as one movie came after the other and we knew what events took place at what point in time.
Captain America: The First Avenger was set during World War 2, then the continuity began with Iron Man with ret cons of some events taking place in the 70s (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and the 90s (Iron Man 3 and Ant-Man). Then began the phase 3 with Captain America: Civil War. It also rets coned with the events that happened in the 90s.
Doctor Strange had no mention of any specific timeline but it fits in either adjacent to Civil War or right after it. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 took place just six months after the events of the first Guardians movie, which makes it lie more than a year before the events of Captain America, which means there is still more than 2 years left until the Guardians meet the Avengers in Infinity War.
Then came in the movie that messed up the timeline completely for no reason at all. Spider-Man Homecoming was set 8 years later than the events of the first Avengers movie, and just 2 months after Civil War, but Civil War took place 4 years after the events of the first Avengers movie.
In the movie, there is a flashback featuring Adrian Toomes aka Vulture and his construction crew cleaning up the wreckage caused by the Battle of New York when Avengers were called in to fight against Loki and his chitauri army. But Dept. of Damage Control along with Stark Enterprises landed the project (allegedly through lobbying and influence peddling) and his company stood no chance at all in the face of this cronyism. Then there is a time jump of 8 years.
The overall MCU timeline is Spiderman: Homecoming is supposed to be around 2016 which is fully in accordance with Civil War events. But the big plot hole is that “The Avengers” is supposed to be in 2012, which we already know so “eight years after” puts it at 2020 which throws the current day premise out of the window. It should actually be four years hence to ensure the current timeline of Marvel movies remains intact.
To make some sort of sense out of this, we either have to push the first Avengers movie much earlier than it happened, which would create a lot of chaos since it will affect the timeline of almost every other movie that took place before and after it, or we can just assume that Homecoming came 4-5 years later (which it did) than Avengers and just ignore the timeline officially mentioned in the movie.
After Homecoming came Thor: Ragnarok which is set 2 years apart from Avengers: Age of Ultron, which sets it a year later than Civil War and leads right into Avengers: Infinity War. This means that all other movies except the two upcoming Avengers movies have taken place before Ragnarok. The Marvel producer Brad Winderbaum was asked about the overall timeline of Ragnarok and how it fits into the larger MCU narrative. He tried to offer explanation but failed miserably at justifying it. Here is what he said:
“It’s not like, five minutes after Ultron ends we start this movie. It’s a couple years later… This movie takes place basically…You know, it’s hard. In the timeline of the MCU, things kind of happen on top of each other, especially now in Phase Three. They’re not as interlocked as they were in Phase One, you know, during Fury’s Big Week and everything. So Thor: Ragnarok happens maybe on top of Civil War, on top of Spider-Man Homecoming. Somewhere in that park.”
Now, Black Panther has come out, which is a story of just about two weeks after Captain America Civil War and lies before Spider-Man: Homecoming. It also rets conned the events that occurred in the 90s. Since Black Panther is going to have a huge impact on the world with Wakanda coming out of the shadows, Homecoming could have easily made use of what happened in Black Panther but that would have been a little spoilery and be confusing at the same time.
Avengers: Infinity War will take place after every other movie in Phase 3 and Avengers 4 will come after that. Which is why Ant-Man and The Wasp are going to be a prequel to Infinity War and the trailer of the movie showed us that it is set after Civil War. We can assume for now that it will take place after or adjacent to Spider-Man: Homecoming, which makes it lie after Black Panther and Doctor Strange. So it would be interesting to see that will Wakanda and its knowledge now is known to the entire world play any sort of role in Ant-man and The Wasp or not. Most probably it won’t.
Then comes in Captain Marvel, the first solo female Superhero movie of the MCU and it is going to be set up in the 90s as well. Captain Marvel will connect itself with Avengers 4 as after her solo movie, Carol Danvers is going to appear in Avengers 4.
So, it is safe to say that the MCU is all sorts of goods mixed with all sorts of mess. The one who is not regular with the MCU movies will totally get confused with the connectivity of all these movies. Hopefully, phase 4 gets handled well enough.
Kevin Feige ain’t revealing much about phase 4 as he wants to focus on winding down of Phase 3 right now. Here is what he said:
“I think it is overdue. I also think that was a particular event to really announce and showcase Phase Three and I guess set up the expectation of doing something like that every few years… But the notion we are sitting here talking and we have, what, six films yet to be released? That’s more than almost any other single production entity in town has on the docket. That should be enough.”
On MCU beyond phase 3, he said: “Well, all I’ll say is the films we are working on now — which take us through to the Avengers Untitled in May of ’19 — that’s really all we are focusing on. And we are focusing on bringing, by that point, an unprecedented, 22-movie, continuous shared fictional narrative to a conclusion in a satisfying way.”
“Marvel Studios has a new direction filled with “good stories” beyond Phase 3. How we start anew and wherever we go beyond that is a story for another time. This is really about 10 years on, bringing something to a head in a satisfying and unexpected way.”
But as far as fixing the general timeline is concerned, Marvel has decided to take this issue seriously and make their timelines without any discrepancies so they are going to publish the official MCU timeline. Here is the statement released by Marvel studios boss Kevin Feige:
“All of that debate has encouraged us. We are going to be publishing an official, and I’m not sure when, or in what format, an official timeline. It’ll probably be a part of ah, I don’t know, a part of an in print that you can fold out and look at,” he said. “But suffice to say, only in limited cases do we ever actually say what the actual years are because we never want to be tied down to a particular year and I think people assume that whenever the movie is released is when is when the movie is taking place, and that is not the case.”